Macbeth – Shakespeare’s Globe, London – Carole Woddis.

She’s become the arch villainess, on a par with Medea.  The woman who eggs her husband on to dreadful acts and who we then see paying for her ambition and ruthlessness by going mad then committing suicide.  Lady Macbeth.  Like Richard III a walking morality lesson if not half so much fun.

Her latest incarnation comes in the shape of Samantha Spiro, not your conventional spitting she-devil.  Spiro, often known for her award winning roles in musicals makes a feisty, hard-nosed companion to Joseph Millson’s unusually dashing Macbeth in this latest revival at Shakespeare’s Globe.

For the uninitiated the Globe, like Regent’s Park Theatre, is now as synonymous with the London summer `season’ as, well, we might as well say it, Wimbledon.

The brainchild of the great, anglophile American actor, Sam Wanamaker, the Globe has proved itself over a decade as not just a pretty, thatched, tourist mecca facsimile of the original Elizabethan playhouse.

Open to the elements, a Globe production can lay claim to being one of the most interactive – and occasionally the most exciting – participatory theatre in London.  More than in most conventional theatres, audiences become active agents, such that – and actors surely must sometimes feel this – there is the sense of them simply running away with the production with the spontaneity and unexpected liveliness of their reactions.

In the context, Eve Best, making her directorial debut offers a solid, Scottish inflected interpretation yet one that refuses to toe the line in terms of seeing them as heinous villains.  It lessens the impact as a morality tale but interestingly, echoes last year’s fabulous British Museum/RSC exhibition that revealed the Macbeths, like Richard III as having been horribly traduced by Shakespeare histriography.  The real Macbeth was a `good’ king.

Millson’s Macbeth too is not an increasingly demented cut-throat; his blood-letting seems almost by default and his sense of guilt muted.  Millson is at his best in moments of reflection whilst Spiro is surprisingly moving in her `washing hands’ scene.  The charting of the collapse of this partnership, torn apart by collusion in murder however is the production’s most abiding success.

All in all, well worth the trip, not least for the atmosphere and riverside situation which remains one of London’s most indelible sights.

The Globe’s season continues to Oct 13.  See

Carole Woddis © 2013.